Many a bland building comes to life in the fall when Virginia creeper sends rivers of crimson red streaking across its walls. This vigorous native vine, which climbs with tendrils tipped with tiny adhesive disks, turns brilliant colors in autumn. And even when it’s not at its showy peak, Virginia creeper can transform your view as a fast-growing climber that adapts to almost any conditions. Pick out the ugliest spot in your yard and imagine it covered by a shimmering curtain of wide green five-fingered leaves. No contest.
Common name: Virginia creeper, woodbine
Botanical name: Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Plant type: Deciduous perennial vine
Zones: 3 to 9
Height: 30 to 50 feet
• Sun: Full sun to part shade. Tolerates full shade.
• Soil: Average, well-drained.
• Moisture: Average.
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed and cuttings.
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to scale insects, leaf hoppers, and beetles.
• Powdery mildew, canker, and leaf spots can be problems.
• Virginia creeper is a fast-growing natural screen that will cover pretty much anything. It doesn’t need support, so it can grow up a wall with no help from you. It also makes a good ground cover. Use it to cover a concrete block wall, a chainlink fence, or a bare patch on a slope.
• This vine can be too aggressive for some situations. Think carefully about where you put it. It’s best in an area where its vigor and strength is an asset.
• Be aware that this vine is hard to remove from buildings. The little discs it uses to support itself often stay behind when the rest of the vine is ripped away, leaving some damage and discoloration.
• Birds love the blue-black berries that appear in summer.
• Though Virginia creeper prefers full sun and average soil, it will tolerate a wide variety of conditions.
• P. quinquefolia ‘Monham’ Star Showers has variegated leaves.
• P. quinquefolia ‘Engelmannii’ has smaller leaves than the species.
All in the family
• Vitaceae, the grape family, also includes the genus Vitis. In this genus are the edible grape species, as well as ornamental grape vines.
• The popular garden vine Boston ivy (P. tricuspidata) is in the same genus as Virginia creeper and shares many qualities with it—including brilliant fall color—but is a native of Asia rather than North America. Many cultivars of Boston ivy are available.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Parthenocissus quinquefolia courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)